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PHILIPPINES: Petition against mining firm to be filed in House

by Ronnie E. CalumpitaThe Manila Times
February 8th, 2006

A militant group on Tuesday said that 90 percent of some 5,000 residents of an island in Albay had signed the petition calling for the permanent closure of the operations of an Australian-financed mining firm in the area.

Fernando Hicap, national chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, said the signatures will be submitted to the House Committee on Natural Resources to prove that residents of Rapu-Rapu Island want Lafayette Mining Inc. to stop its operations in their communities.

The committee will start its investigation Wednesday into the Lafayette mining spill, which happened on October 11 and October 31, 2005, that resulted in a series of fishkill and toxic-metal contamination.

“The House probe into the Lafayette mining spill is welcome news. We will explore this venue to fight this transnational toxic giant and convince our lawmakers that they should put an end to this flagship mining project to avoid another environmental tragedy in the future,” Hicap said in a statement.

Pamalakaya on Thursday will submit the petition of the Rapu-Rapu folk’s against the mining firm to the House of Representatives. The group will be joined by its affiliate, the Lakas ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Bicol, and support groups like Sagip Isla, Umalpas Ka Sorsogon and Task Force Kontra Lafayette.

The fishermen’s group said the guests and resource persons invited to the congressional hearing would include newly appointed Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes; Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Alabastro; Director Malcolm Sarmiento of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; Benjamin Philip Romualdez, president of the Chamber of Mines; Gov. Raul Lee of Sorsogon; and Gov. Fernando Gonzales of Albay.

DENR Undersecretaries Armando de Castro and Deinrado Dimalibot; Jeremias Dolino, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau; and Director Lolibeth Medrano of the Environmental Management Bureau and Lafayette officials have also been invited.

The company, which is involved in gold, silver and copper mining in a 4,486.63-hectare site, had denied that it had spilled mercury and other toxic materials in the coastal areas of Rapu-Rapu Island.

It claimed it already passed the government’s strict cyanide standards.

Antonio Apostol 2nd, Lands Geology Survey Division chief of the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said that mercury is not used in the recovery of gold in the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of Lafayyete in Albay.

“The gold-processing plant of Rapu-Rapu uses cyanide, the most preferred chemical reagent by international gold mining companies, to recover gold from mineral ores,” he added.




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